Gatwick has revealed the full extent of the dire toll the Covid crisis took on the airport last year, recording a £465.5 million loss for the 12 months to 31 December 2020.
Passenger numbers ended up down 78% for the full year following a collapse in demand, while the airport was forced to cut staffing levels by more than 40% to balance the books.
Staffing cuts contributed to a £140 million overall reduction in operating costs, which also saw the airport consolidate all air and passenger traffic into one terminal.
Gatwick was also able to reduce planned capital expenditure by deferring more than £380 million in investment originally planned for 2020 and 2021.
The airport boosted its liquidity through a £300 million bank loan, and drew £250 million from the government’s Covid Corporate Financing Facility. As of December, it had £573 million available to cover 2021 operating cashflows, investments and interest payments.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate said that despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, he was confident the airport’s efforts to cut costs would allow it to "recover and retain" its position as one of Europe’s major aviation centres, and take advantage of a hoped return to international travel this summer.
“We are heartened by the UK government’s Covid-19 response plan and look forward to working with the Global Travel Taskforce to develop a framework that can facilitate greater international travel as soon as possible," said Wingate.
"This will require the UK government working with other governments to ease the current crippling travel restrictions and ensure a consistent, reciprocal approach for all travellers in time for this summer. Restoring passenger confidence and offering Covid-19 safe air travel while minimising the need for cost-prohibitive testing and disruptive quarantine measures is vital."
Wingate said it was vital the government extended the furlough scheme "for a few more months" to guard against further job losses as the sector looks to recover, and to provide business rate relief for the current financial year.
He added he wanted to think all staff, including those who left the business, for their "hard work and determination" during the crisis.